08 October 2020

A man with a spinal disorder sitting comfortably at home at his computer in an ergonomic setup

Approximately 28% of Australians with disability also experience a chronic back problem. That's over 1.2 million people

When you’re living with a spinal condition such as scoliosis or ankylosing spondylitis, there can be difficulties in finding the right job. Pain, fatigue and stiffness can leave you feeling discouraged about keeping up with the demands of work.

The good news is, people living with scoliosis, ankylosing spondylitis and other spinal conditions can find work which suits their abilities.

There are many employers and workplaces with jobs which can be supportive of people living with spinal disorders.

In fact, the right job can bring a lot of benefits. Working in a supportive environment will increase your confidence. On top of being better off financially, it will also give you a sense of purpose.

What to look out for in a job when you have a spinal disorder

The range of symptoms and physical limits vary greatly from person to person. When looking for work, it’s important to seek professional advice about what’s right for you.

an older man with spinal condition, bending over, clutching his lower back, grimacing in pain

When searching for a job, consider:

Is the role physically demanding?

Physically demanding jobs, such as the construction and automotive trades, can cause a lot of pain for people with spinal conditions. Look for roles that aren’t as physically demanding on your body.

Are you required to do repetitive actions for a long time?

Standing up and sitting down for a long time can both aggravate symptoms. Jobs that allow you to vary your level of activity and body posture tend to be more manageable.

Can you work at your own pace?

Look for jobs which let you take regular breaks. Being able to lie down for 15 minutes or get up and walk around the office every 30 minutes can help manage pain.

Can the work environment be adapted to support you?

Your employer may be willing to pay for accommodations that support you. For example, setting up a standing desk, supplying a supportive chair or allowing you to work when your energy is highest.

Is the workplace culture understanding and supportive?

Each workplace has its own dynamics, but if you have a team of people who can support you it makes things more manageable.

Need inspiration? Here are 8 jobs for people with scoliosis, ankylosing spondylitis and other spinal disorders:

1. Teacher

Teaching roles often involve a mix of standing and sitting and have time for breaks. School and university teachers also have longer breaks over (term) holidays. You may have skills from a previous career that you can pass onto others as a teacher. For example, a nursing lecturer or an automotive instructor.

2. Self-employed

Working regular full time hours might be taxing on your body, working for yourself means you can go at your own pace. You could turn your passion for writing, photography or floristry into a business. Or you could use your skills to offer services such as tax return preparation, web-design or editing.

3. Exercise instructor

Experts say that exercise can help people with spinal conditions manage pain. If you enjoy the benefits of exercise, why not turn it into a career as a yoga instructor, group fitness instructor or swimming teacher.

4. Sales agent

Roles in sales tend to be more flexible. They usually involve a combination of desk work and more active tasks such as visiting customer locations. Consider the job structure and pressure of the role to see if it works for you.

5. Reseller

Resellers buy and resell items for a profit. If you want to work at your own pace, consider selling online so that you can work from home. You could resell anything from antique furniture and vintage clothing to collectables and books.

a woman with a spinal condition sitting comfortably at home. on the phone, running her own business

6. Mindfulness coach

Mindfulness practices have been shown to help people with spinal conditions manage pain. If you find mindfulness helpful, you could help others experience the benefits as a mindfulness coach.

7. Administrative assistant

Many administrative assistant roles involve a mixture of desk work and running errands. With the right environment and enough flexibility, this could be an ideal role.

8. Project manager

You can find project managers in almost every industry. If you have skills and knowledge from previous careers, you could put these to use helping projects go successfully.

Need help finding a job that works for you?

Whether you are finding it hard to get work or your current role isn’t working for you, help is available. At APM, we help hundreds of job seekers every week find roles that suit them. Wondering how to find a job with a spinal disorder? You may be eligible for our Disability Employment Services program. Register today to find out.

Author

Diane Early

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